I am back to my original series of tales from the summer. This is going to be a long post, so if you need to skim go for it. The next tale took place right after graduation at ONU. The Ohio Northern Wind Orchestra travelled to Germany for a two week tour. We started off our journey in Ada, Ohio. We all boarded a charter bus really early in the morning and drove six hours to Chicago O’Hare Airport. As much as people hate long bus rides, I don’t mind them at all. I travelled a lot during my summers on charter buses. As soon as they start moving I zonk out.
Our flight was twelve hours from Chicago to Dublin, Ireland where we got off for a three hour layover from Dublin to Frankfurt, Germany. I didn’t have any problems on my long flight, because the airline provided little television screens in front of each seat to watch movies, television or play games. I was seated in an aisle seat so I had plenty of room. One the shorter layover I was stuck between two huge, German men who didn’t speak English so I just listened to music. I was tired, but excited to see Germany so the jet lag didn’t bother me. We all had to just force ourselves to adjust to the time.
Quick note: One of our students left their passport on the plane once we were in Germany. The plane already left to go back to Ireland. He got to spend the first part of our trip in customs with the German police and a faculty member. Poor Brendan.
The first place we visited was Luxembourg. Luxembourg was full of quiet shops and good food. I got to have Guinness at an Irish bar and some other drinks with my friends that night before we got ready for the next day.
We went to Trier where I had the best meal of the whole trip. Although we went to Germany my favorite meal was pizza from an Italian family. The family let us keep the glasses and thought we were very interesting.
Laupheim was the highlight of the trip. It’s a small town in Germany where everyone is a close-knit community. After the war, some parts were left devastated and you can obviously see the newer part of the town. In all the other locations, we stayed in youth hostels (basically dorm hotels), but in Laupheim we all were placed in homes of members of the orchestra there. My host family was Frank, Petra and their two daughters Yana and Romina. Their little girls held up a sign that read “Welcome in Germany” when we arrived at the orchestra. Their home is gorgeous and quaint. They were wonderful hosts. Every morning we had so much food to take us with on our travels and they tried their best to speak with us.
In Laupheim we visited a brewery, performed a fantastic concert and went to a German barbeque where there was lots of food and beer. They treated us like royalty. One of our professors Dr. Hunt, studied in Germany for twenty years, so we have all these connections in small towns to experience the real life of Germany. We are lucky to have him.
The next day we went to Austria. We hiked up the Pherd trail to get a view of the Swiss Alps in the distance. There were cows with bells on them. The hills were alive with music, too. We were “those” Americans who sang as we hiked up the mountain.
We started off the next day by visiting Stuttgart where we performed another fantastic concert and visited the Mercedes Benz Museum. For some reason I remember this day not by the things we did, but the conversations I had with my professors and friends. I remember it fondly.
Of course if you visit Germany, you should visit a concentration camp if you are able. It’s very hard to put into words how difficult and overwhelming visiting the camp was. We visited Buchenwald. Fifty-eight thousand people died there. The camp was know for genetic testing, euthanizations and their crematorium. There is this gorgeous landscape in the distance, but when you imagine how much pain and suffering went on where you were standing it was too much to handle. Taking photos seemed inappropriate here, but I took a few to remember the landscape and how I felt.
The last place we went to was Berlin! My friend group wanted to get a head start on how to use public transportation so we went out really late the first night. We had to take a bus and two trains to get to a cantina where we had Spanish cuisine. For my friends that really just meant really good margaritas. The next day we went on a tour but were cut off by security around the Brandenburg gate. President Obama happened to be in Berlin and we saw his car and security detail pull up at the gate! It’s a small world! We walked to the East Side Gallery and saw the Berlin Wall. We had currywurst and Mezzo Mix. It’s like an orange cola and coke mix--so good. We went to the Olympic Stadium, the Charlottenburg Palace and the Rittersport chocolate store before ending our evening at the Berlin Philharmonic. I got to sit right behind the French horns!
Before the trip, I was worried about my close friends not being on the tour and being first chair in my section, but I had nothing to worry about. I get along with lots of people and actually had some pretty great friends. I had countless memories as you can tell, but I really will remember the conversation and the people that were with me in these amazing places. If you EVER have a chance to travel abroad whether it’s for a week or a semester, GO! You will not regret it! Thanks for reading about my trip.